Coâ Toâ electricity prices: A highly charged issue
Picturesque Coâ Toâ District has seen rapid development over the past 30 years but much of its potential has remained untapped due to extortionate electricity prices. Now, a pioneering undersea cable project hopes to connect the region to the national gri
Coâ Toâ District has seen recent development but much of its potential has remained untapped due to extortionate electricity prices. A pioneering undersea cable project hopes to change this.
"It really raises my eyebrows," Leâ Thò Loäc said in response to the small fortune she spends each month to settle her electricity bill.
Loäc, 38, spends almost US$2,000, or 40 million ñoàng, on electricity every month to run her grocery store and guesthouse in the centre of the town of Coâ Toâ in the island district of Coâ Toâ.
Coâ Toâ District is located offshore of the northeastern province of Quaûng Ninh. The district includes two main communes, Ñoàng Tieán and Thanh Laân, which go by the names of two major islands, part of dozens of other islands and islets. It has a population of over 5,000.
That huge electricity bill doesn't come from the fact that Loäc has been using three refrigerators and three freezers for her store and 14 air-conditioners for her 10 room guesthouse, but more specifically it comes from the exorbitant price she must pay for each kilowatt of electricity.
Nguyeãn Thò Möôøi, 40, Loäc's neighbour from across the street, also pays a high electricity bill of 7 million ñoàng each month, not to mention her cost for running a private electric generator that her family uses to supply electricity to their jellyfish processing business, which is located far from the centre of town.
The price of guesthouse in the district is also ridiculously high, from 500-700 thousand ñoàng per night for an air-conditioned room, which is twice the price in decent mini hotels on the mainland. Loäc, Möôøi and all the other households in the district have to pay a price for that is three to five times higher than the price on the mainland. One of the main reasons for the unpleasantly high electricity price is that the district, which is over an hour's journey by hydrofoil from the mainland, has not yet been connected to the national grid. The whole district is supplied with electricity generated from state-owned generators. But this will soon change, as an ambitious project to connect the national grid to the island using submarine cables was begun in last November and is expected to be completed this October. Since its establishment in 1994, the district has seen steady and significant changes in all aspects of life. The population increased from 29 households with 140 people to 650 households with 5,000 members. In the 1990s only a few households were able to access electricity, but now all can use electricity for 23 hours a day, only suffering an outage from 5am to 6 am. The district's inhabitants now also have access to television and internet service that is of the same quality as the mainland. The district, known for its fishery and seafood processing, also has great potential for tourism and services, such as boat maintenance, which will require a stable supply of electricity at a reasonable price. Quaûng Ninh's authorities felt a sense of urgency - both from
the people's call for a cheaper electricity charge and the demand to unlock the district's untapped economic potential - to hook the district to the national grid in order to reduce the price of electricity, boost the district's economy and improve the quality of life for all inhabitants.
The province immediately called for a feasibility study and three months later a decision was made to implement the project using undersea cables to bring electricity to the district.
The provincial authorities confirmed that when the island is connected to the national grid, the electricity price in the district will be as low as the price on the mainland.
Besides traditional agriculture and fishery, the district's main income for the last 30 years, tourism has gradually become an important part of the economic structure for this island district, where some of the beaches are believed to be the best in Vieät Nam.
The district is expected to receive a wave of tourists since the stable, low-priced electricity supply will cut down the cost of the district’s hospitality industry.
Loäc said she was not worried about a rapid population increase or an increase in the district's businesses once the national grid comes to town.
"The more, the merrier. I want
"When the district is connected to the national grid this October as expected, we will witness the take-off of Coâ Toâ's economy in the very near future."
to see more people coming here and more services appear in the district because that will benefit both the district and the inhabitants," she said.
Loäc also provides a motorbike-rental service, which is incredibly cheap at only 50,000 ñoàng, or just over two US dollars for an hour.
Leâ Ñoâng, head of the energy division under the Quaûng Ninh Trade and Industry Department, said supplying Coâ Toâ with electricity from the national grid had a great economic significance.
"The project, which costs around 1,107 billion ñoàng ($52 million) will help turn a 26ha anchorage into a fishing boat maintenance port for the entire northern region," Ñoâng said.
"Fisherman will have enough ice to make longer journeys instead of having to remain in areas surrounding the district."
"When the district is connected to the national grid this October as expected, we will witness the takeoff of Coâ Toâ's economy in the very near future," Ñoâng said.
Workers prepare to plant posts to bring national grid electricity to households on Coâ Toâ Island.
One of the key electricity posts for the project “Connecting Coâ Toâ to the national grid.”
Infrastructure has been built in a hurry to pave the way for connection of the national grid to the Island.